In Nigeria, a nation trying to evolve into a strong democracy, the selection by voters of public office holders that protect their interests has been particularly challenging. In addition to difficulties that result from the insertion of religion and ethnicity into politics, voters are often unaware of the economic and financial policies offered by different candidates seeking to be elected. As a result of this ignorance of crucial fiscal matters, voters, on the rare occasions when economic policy is put into consideration, often rely on inadequate or subjective means of assessment such as the sensationalized stories in partisan media outfits. The consequence of this is obvious after reviewing the outcome of elections that were held earlier in the year in the country. In paradoxical fashion, certain governors of apparently bankrupt states got reelected.
BudgIT, an innovative start-up, is an indigenous firm working hard at providing the public with enlightenment on the fiscal policies of government, policies that have a direct bearing on their standard of living. Employing the use of info graphics, they attempt to break down public finances in a manner that makes comprehension by lay individuals easy. The importance of the transparency they help provide can’t be overemphasized. Armed with the right information, voters are positioned to make informed choices. Thus, the success of candidates with a history of mismanagement of finances becomes more difficult.
A recent work of BudgIT, published in light of a recent bailout extended to states by the country’s Central Bank, sheds light on the financial health of all the states. The report reveals a dangerous dependence on the federal government by virtually all the states. Also, the report shows a reliance on bank loans obtained at double-digit interest rates, described as unsustainable by financial experts. Osun, one of the states most affected by the crisis, reliant on meagre tax revenue, is described as having obtained loans to build several stadiums, roads, and related projects deemed to be investments with unsatisfactory returns. Encouragingly, the report indicates that a few of the states have solid finances demonstrating a certain degree of self-sufficiency.
Expectations of economic progress are reasonable when transparency in governance enables citizens to make rational choices. By helping shift focus from divisive issues such as religion and ethnicity, BudgIT can help Nigerians direct their attention to finance, a subject that puts food on the table. Ultimately, the right application of financial resources is the only means of attaining true freedom and independence in Nigeria and other African countries.